Mar 4, 2008

Your Strategy Is Not My Friend Either

While I’ve discussed how a lot of the push back against social media comes from the creative department, another large pocket of resistance is planning.

Planners come up with all sorts of brilliant brand strategies that work wonderfully in areas where consumers are looking for news, especially news that’s delivered in an entertaining manner. But their strategies often prove too granular for media where people are looking for functionality delivered in an easy-to-utilize fashion. Broad-based strategies work best when you’re designing a social media application.

Take a look at

I’m guessing they have an advertising strategy that goes something like “TripAdvisor is the easiest way to research, book and review all your travel plans.”

But their very successful FB app "Cities I’ve Visited” is just what it says it is—a mash-up of Google maps that lets you tick off all the cities you’ve traveled to. The strategy here is broad and simple: Traveling is cool.

Now I suspect some overly zealous planner might try to put a stop to the "Cities I’ve Visited” app because it doesn’t strictly adhere to their carefully developed brand strategy. But that’s the thing about Facebook apps and similar tools: they’re not advertising. They’re branding. Think of them as being a new form of product placement or sponsorship and it all starts to make sense.

Or not. People who are invested in the strategic advertising platform aren't going to give up that easily. They'll pull out the “Subservient Chicken,” example and point out how this brilliant solution actually adheres to a brand strategy, skipping over the part about how the “Chicken the way you like” strategy is a lot broader and a lot less granular than the strategy they're pushing. I mean I can just hear the creative team that came up with "Cities I’ve Visited” being told that they "just need to think about it harder” until they come up with something that's based off the strategic platform because "right now all you're doing is selling the category."

Now what this line of reasoning ignores is the inconvenient reality that no one really cares about your brand or its strategic platform. At least in this space, where they’re just looking for utility. Remember-- Your Brand Is Not My Friend™. And your strategy isn't either. I don’t want to hear an advertising message from you when I’m socializing on Facebook. Give me a branded app that’s as useful or enjoyable as an unbranded app and I’ll gladly use it. I’ll probably even remember it’s from you and think of you favorably next time we meet. But that’s as far as I’ll go. I’m not going to engage with you if you’re clearly trying to sell me something, clearly trying to hammer home a “brand message” that lays out a "unique selling proposition."

I’ve got better things to do.


gianandrea said...

What about: no perceived added value, no attention to your message?
If you disturb me with your message, it has to be worthwhile.
Which seems to be true not only in social media but across all media.

Anonymous said...


while that's always been technically true, how many brands actually adhered to it? it's just good manners really but, given the chance, most brands were/are content to just hit people over the the head with "their" message. with little regard for the big picture.

toad, i think we're seeing the end of strategy as it used to be. because let's face it, strategy was little more than "what are we going to beat them over the head with?". safe in the assumption that consumers' attention could be simply bought.

Anonymous said...

"I can just hear the creative team that came up with "Cities I’ve Visited” being told that they just need to “think about it harder” until they come up with something that's based off the strategic platform..."

You hit the nail on the BDA head, Toad.

In this case, "Think about it harder" is the new way of fostering overthink until all the life (and interest to the end-user) is sucked out of the idea until all that's left is (surprise) the planner's strategy turned into a flash file (or VO copy, or headline). Great job, everyone. You've really brought that planner's cliched marketing-ese to life! Yuk.

Anonymous said...

is planning dead? i worked at a BDA for a long time and i can't recall a single instance of a planner adding to the creative output. well once. but that was in the London office.

Anonymous said...

toad had an earlier post that is relevant - he talked about how a lot of opportunities to create a utility that adds value for consumers are ignored because they are not award-worthy for the creatives and not granular enough for the planners.

but they are value that consumers want, and like the Cities I've Visited utility, are far more effective when they are simple, easy to use and give the consumer value.

even if they strategy is broad or there is no opportunity to work with Hungry Man and stay at the Four Seasons